How to Get Rid of Squatters

Written on June 8, 2015 by , updated on December 28, 2015

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.

Conclusion

Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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494 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • kololo

    I can’t believe in first world country law can protect parasytes and thiefs. How could that happen? Where is justice and why nobody (except victims) seems to care?

    • Bob

      Before you start getting on your high horse & lecturing about the “first world law”, you might want to either turn off the spell check or actually learn the law yourself.

      You know, the same law that protected & continues to protect you & your immigrant family at reduced taxation, increased burden on other taxpayers, & God knows what other benefits.

      Don’t be so quick to condemn others.

      • Jenny

        Well said Bob. Could not agree more.

      • D

        So, you’re ok with squatters staying on your property…(il)legally? I guess you’re ok with it because that’s what YOUR forefathers did, only it was an entire country. And for the record, this fine country, which I proudly serve is based off of immigrants. The very people who started this nation…The first being the savages of Europe who “found” this already inhabited land, learned all they could from natives, then killing, raping, and pillaging, the natives;and throwing them on reservations; and its celebrated as Thanksgiving…smdh. I’m sure you’re of European descent…but how can I make such an assumption about you? And I’m sure Jenny is of European descent too…know your own actual history, before trying to “educate” someone else.

      • Question Everything

        I was renting a trailer to a single mom on its own land with a gambrel garage & a 3 bedrooms. Her father is a raging alcoholic and I told her I did not want him there. She stopped paying rent and when I went there cuz the sheriff said check on the property the door is open. My father pulled in behind my vehicle with a baseball bat in his hand. I told him to put the bat down three times & then proceeded to videotape him afterwards my mother just passed away 3 , 4 months before that. He was yelling & screaming like a lunatic I had to call 911 & he called my mother effing Dead C & effing dead hor to my face! You think squatters have rights ( is bs) the police got there they made me leave. It let him kil my rental, im disabled wow.. your sad

      • Daniel Bush

        What does that mean? Are you condoning squatters?

  • Dave ford

    I am cash poor, no money to hire a lawyer to file unlawful detainer

  • Monica

    Daughter moved out at 17. 18 years later ask if her and son can move in. 3 1/2 years later with no lease and no rent can’t get them out. They refused to leave

  • Myles

    I am buying a single family brownstone in Brooklyn NY with no heat, water or electricity. It has a squatter how do I get him out if he wants a absurd amount of money

    • doug stramm

      Kill Him. Or hire me to do the job

      • Palle

        I’m in Sweden and need your services NOW. This horrible psycho bitch is even threatenening my family that lives upstairs in the separate top apartment. I am from a tough life all throu life up until now. My father and uncle got murderd subsequently a few years back and I’ve been to jail.
        My husband has saved me and totally changed my course through giving me a safe environment in his home town and extended normal family.
        I’m now using my experience to give back to all those who are not seen by people like us normally.
        I run charities and social development activities for my own and the neighboring community.
        My past memory of fear and despair is in conflict with my goodwill. Do it or I will

  • Katydid

    My husband has allowed a tradesman to live with us for over 30 days and we live in a squatter friendly state. He has temporarily moved out thank god. My question is: if he comes back for another 2 weeks will he still have squatter’s rights? In other words, how long does that 30 days protect squatters rights? Is it consecutive or in total etc? I want to protect myself for the future thanks. Note: he has not claimed squatters rights but I want protection in the event he does

  • david sudberry

    help! i recently had a friend ask to rent a room. he said there would be him his girl friend her daughter (she has cerable paulsey and frequent seziures.)and her boyfriend. whom they have watch over her. reluctantly i agreed to rent the garage after i made sure the proper amenities were installed. then two days later him and his girlfriend show up at ten at night begging to stay the night. the girl friend stating there was some creep harrassing her and they had to go. i let them in. i told them 25 $ a day they only been paying around ten$ i had the sheriff come out after i asked them to leave and that he threatened me. sheriff said he couldent make them leave to start eviction process. ???

  • Pamela Howard

    You need contract or money order showing tenants are paying rent for number of months as agreed on contract.

  • P Henry

    I have properties on either side of my home that the owners are deseased and left no will. These properties are in horrible condition with septic sewage spilling on my property. The Texas Evironmental Commission in another town refers the complaint to the county Compliance officer who doesn’t come out or take any action. These properties are deliquint in taxes by 5 yrs. It is taking forever to bring this to the courthouse sale. How can I file some sort of lien to prevent the new owner from continuing with the non existent sewer system?

  • Emily

    My father died and I inherited a farm. He allowed someone to live for free on the farm for over 20 years in a mobile home to “keep an eye on the place. ” I am now ready to list the property and have asked the person to move but it has been 6 months and he hasnt moved. Does he have any rights to the land. I had him sign a paper after daddy died saying if I decided to sell he would need to leave. How can I get him to leave.

  • JANELLE ARMSTRONG

    i am a victim of this ridiculous law in the grand state of ca.. my boyfriend and kids went to move into are home we just bought and went to open the door for the first time and there where people living in my home i thought it was a joke little did i know i would have to try and kick these unknown people out of my home A year and 4 months later thousands and thousands of dollars down the drain and we STILL had to make are mortgage payment even tho we where not living there. we became homeless because of this. We just got them evicted this month we lost everything as a mother it is heart breaking to know that we couldn’t provide what my kids needed i almost lost my kids to cps because we where homeless they destroyed a brand new home

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